The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is in its own sense a modern monomyth. Though the story takes place in the 21st century, it also incorporates many elements of ancient Greek mythology. The series follows a group of characters known as demigods – children with one parent that is a normal, mortal human and one who is a Greek God – and details the various hero’s journeys they undergo. These journeys draw a lot of parallels to the source mythology, retelling the stories of various monsters, creatures, and other well-known Greek deities such as Medusa or the Minotaur in a more modern context and portraying them as enemies or trials for the demigods to overcome. The universe of the story even has a special training camp, known as Camp Half-Blood, where demigods can live safe from the threat of monsters and train for various quests and adventures. One such demigod that is one of the main characters and therefore central to the plot of the series is Annabeth Chase.
Annabeth is the daughter of Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom and battle strategy, and her father is a professor of American military history. From the instant she is introduced to the reader, she is portrayed as someone who is already heroic – she is highly knowledgeable and capable, both as a skilled fighter, leader, and mentor to Percy, the main character and namesake of the series. From a feminist standpoint, she breaks traditional gender norms and roles of masculinity or femininity throughout the story. Firstly, Annabeth is introduced in a position of power and status as a senior counselor at Camp Half-Blood, who earned this position through demonstrations of her strategic skills over the years. When she and Percy’s friend Grover the Satyr are chosen to accompany Percy on his quest, rather than being a damsel-in-distress archetype that constantly needs Percy’s protection, she is usually the one protecting him from the mythological world that he knows little about and keeping him in check. Even as Percy develops and gains experience, Annabeth is never truly ‘surpassed’, nor does she become irrelevant to the plot as the story progresses – she and Percy become more like equals as they both bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table.
As the book is narrated through Percy’s point of view, and its primary target audience is male school-age children, unfortunately Annabeth is subject to the male gaze on a few occasions. The best example of this is when at first, Percy only sees her as a love interest and doesn’t acknowledge her achievements, expecting her to think that he was ‘cool’ for killing the Minotaur and subsequently being surprised when she was unimpressed. This eventually decreases as the story goes on, although in the long term Annabeth does end up in a relationship with Percy, which can potentially be seen as a drawback for her character from a feminist standpoint.
Another framework through which Annabeth’s character can be viewed is that of Marxist criticism, which revolves around a base of power dynamics and exploitative relationships to maintain a superstructure of what is considered “normal” in society. While Marxism is not inherently present in The Lightning Thief or any of the other books in the series, there are a few themes from Marxist criticism that can be applied to the story. One of the most obvious is the power dynamic between the Olympian Gods themselves and their mortal children, the demigods. Throughout the story, Annabeth makes several mentions of the Gods using their children to settle their quarrels, and in fact this is the backstory behind the plot of the whole book – Percy and his friends are literally sent on a quest to the underworld to retrieve Zeus’ lightning bolt which was apparently stolen by Hades.
Layered on top of the whole God/mortal power dynamic is the parent/child power dynamic, as well as an interesting dynamic between demigods and other, normal humans who for the most part are oblivious of the mythological world that they coexist with. These normal humans are for the most part protected from any mythological threats by ‘the Mist’, a supernatural phenomenon that causes them to interpret mythological events in terms that make sense to them. While not oppressed per say like the Marxist proletariat, they are kept in the dark ‘for their own good’.
Annabeth can easily be described as a “New Heroine”; in fact, it’s almost as if she was designed for the archetype. Similarly to many other heroines in modern literature, she is depicted as someone who is already heroic, being highly skilled to begin with and acting as a mentor to those less experienced with her. And although she is shown to be a strong character, she is not without her flaws and weaknesses, making her believable and realistic as well. While her identity as female does play a role in how she is portrayed as character, it does not define her – her identities as a hero, demigod, and child of Athena are more important to the story, meaning that she is an excellent example of a strong female character that doesn’t seem forced. These qualities are what make her a “New Heroine”.